I knew it would happen eventually. As the saying goes, “no one goes to college nursing!” I knew it would be difficult, but I had no idea how difficult.
My daughter and I are best friends. I know, I’m her mom, but I’m also her best friend. In a lot of ways she’s also mine. We have been on such a journey during her 3.5 years of life. She burst into my world one January night 3 years ago; tiny, cold, afraid. I also felt afraid. 18 years of abuse and a lifetime of neglect left me raw. I had no good examples of what a parent should be. I knew I wanted to be a mother but I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off. They placed her tiny body on me after delivery, she latched on, and a beautiful relationship began. Breastfeeding her brought me to a new level of healing from the hurt of my past.
My original goal was one year. When she turned one, I decided to stretch that to two. She was still so small, so needy. She’s sweetly latch on and stare at me with her big eyes. I couldn’t give that up and she definitely wasn’t ready or interested in stopping.
When she was 14 months old I became pregnant with her brother. We nursed through the entire pregnancy and went to continue tandem nursing for 15 more months. We cut down significantly but slowly and by the end she was only nursing for about 2 minutes before bed. They were a special 2 minutes. Sometimes the only 2 we’d be alone in the whole day. Our time. Still latching on and staring with those beautiful eyes. Needing me still so much, but also growing up.
One night, over a month ago now, she told me she wasn’t going to drink milk that night. She wanted to be a big girl so she could be a vet to take care of elephants. I said ok, snuggled her as she fell asleep, and assumed she would resume the next day. Instead she continued to say she was done. We made it 3 years, 3 months, and 4 days. And she ended the relationship on her own terms. It’s such a beautiful thing. No tears, no forcing.
She is totally fine. If you ask her if she wants milk now she will giggle and give me some line about taking care of the elephants. It’s amazing.
I, on the other hand, was unprepared. I thought I’d be joyous. And in many ways I am. I accomplished so many things with our nursing relationship. I nursed a preschooler, tandem nursed for over a year, and set out on a journey of healing that I never expected. But it’s very bittersweet. My baby is growing up. She still needs me, but in different ways. Ways that I can’t always easily meet the way I could when she was nursing. Breastfeeding is about nutrition, but it’s also about comfort, bonding, love. It fixes boo boos and calms an anxious child to sleep. It dries tears from daddy leaving for a long day of work. It erases the sting of rejection when the kids at the park don’t want to play with her. When she weaned, my tool bag felt suddenly very empty. I’m developing new tools, but it’s slow. Nothing seems as effective.
I am a person who thrives on touch. I actually hate to be touched but need it. My daughter is busy and curious and doesn’t always have time to snuggle with mommy. As our nursing relationship ended, so did our snuggling time. I find myself requesting hugs more often. Babywearing her again when she will let me just to get that closeness. As much as she needs me, I need her.
She was ready, but I’m not sure I was. It was also so unexpected. I didn’t know that 3 years 3 months and 3 days would be the last time. I didn’t appreciate it. I expected that the next night would be the same and it wasn’t. There is something to be learned from that. I think I now take a bit of time to enjoy the little things more. You just don’t know when the last time for anything will be. It’s allowed me to be more patient and live more in the moment.
Nursing, no matter how long you do it, is beautiful. Feeding your baby in general is beautiful. Watching your children grow and thrive is miraculous. It’s bittersweet though. As they grow and change, so do we. No one really prepared me for that.
3 years. 3 months. 4 days. That was the duration of our nursing relationship. We have a lifetime of memories to make. I intend to enjoy every one.